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GOP report: Evidence ‘does not prove’ Trump pressured Ukraine for political benefit

Roll Call logo Roll Call 12/3/2019
Brad Wenstrup, Scott Perry, Jim Jordan standing in a room: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, joined by other House Republicans, speaks to the media during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Nov. 20, 2019. A GOP report by Intelligence staff says Democrats’ evidence “does not prove” Trump abused his authority to pressure Ukraine. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call) © Provided by Roll Call Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, joined by other House Republicans, speaks to the media during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Nov. 20, 2019. A GOP report by Intelligence staff says Democrats’ evidence “does not prove” Trump abused his authority to pressure Ukraine. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Evidence presented during the fact-finding stage of a House impeachment inquiry “does not prove” Democratic allegations that President Donald Trump abused his authority when pressuring Ukraine into launching an investigation of a rival that would benefit his 2020 reelection campaign, a report released by Republicans Monday evening said.

The 123-page report, authored by Republican staff of the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels, pans the impeachment inquiry as “an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system” and argues that the evidence does not prove Democrats’ allegations against Trump.

[Trump says Democrats are ‘getting killed in their own districts’ over impeachment]

“None of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” the Republican staff wrote in the executive summary of the report.

The document largely echos arguments Republicans made during the closed-door depositions of 17 witnesses and public hearings with 12 of those current and former executive branch employees.

The GOP report includes three overarching findings:

1) “The evidence does not establish that President Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rival for the purpose of benefiting him in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

Republicans cite a summary of a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as “the best evidence” that no such pressure campaign occurred.

“The summary shows no indication of conditionality, pressure, or coercion,” the staff wrote. “Both President Trump and President Zelensky have denied the existence of any pressure.”

As they did in the hearings, Republicans also argue that the evidence does not support claims that Trump used U.S. security assistance and a White House meeting as leverage to get Zelenskiy to open an investigation into his potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. They point out Ukraine received the security assistance and Trump met with Zelenskiy without the country launching an investigation into the Bidens.

“These facts alone severely undercut the Democrat allegations,” the GOP staff wrote.

Republicans also argue that Democrats ignored evidence about Trump’s state of mind, which they say shows “deeply-rooted, reasonable, and genuine concerns about corruption in Ukraine,” including Hunter Biden being appointed to board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company with a reputation for corruption, when his father was the Obama administration’s point person for Ukraine policy.

“There is also compelling and indisputable evidence that Ukrainian government officials — some working with a Democrat operative — sought to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016 in favor of Secretary Clinton and in opposition to President Trump,” Republicans claim.

Several witnesses, including former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, testified that there is no basis to the claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Hill, who specialized in Russia and European affairs, said the Kremlin was promoting that disinformation campaign to distract from the intelligence community’s conclusion that it was Russia that interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump.

“Democrats have posited a false choice: that influence in the 2016 election is binary — it could have been conducted by Russia or by Ukraine, but not both. This is nonsense,” Republican staff wrote in the report.

The report cites a 2016 op-ed that Valeriy Chaly, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States at the time, wrote criticizing Trump’s policies toward Ukraine. Republicans frequently mentioned it in the hearings as evidence of Ukraine attempting to influence the outcome of the election, as well as other public criticisms Ukranian officials made against Trump.

2) “The evidence does not establish that President Trump engaged in a cover-up of his interactions with Ukrainian President [Zelenskiy].”

White House efforts to restrict access to the summary of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy was about preventing leaks, not covering up wrongdoing, the GOP argued.

“The summary was mistakenly placed on a secure server; however, the Democrats’ witnesses explained that there was no nefarious conduct or malicious intent associated with this action,” the Republican staff said.

The GOP also noted that after questions were raised about the call Trump chose to declassify and release the summary “in the interest of full transparency.”

3) “The evidence does not establish that President Trump obstructed Congress in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.”

Republicans again cite Trump’s transparency in releasing the call summary as evidence against obstruction, and they argue that the stance the White House took in not cooperating with the inquiry was because Democrats were not adhering to “basic legal concepts of due process and the presumption of innocence.”

“Democrats cannot and should not impeach President Trump for declining to submit himself to an abusive and unfair process,” the GOP staff argue.

In the report’s conclusion, Republican staff say the evidence “paints a picture of unelected bureaucrats within the foreign policy and national security apparatus who fundamentally disagreed with President Trump’s style, world view, and decisions.” Those disagreements set in motion the whistleblower complaint, which Democrats used “to fulfill their yearsold obsession with removing President Trump from office,” they said.

“The unfortunate collateral damage of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is the harm done to bilateral U.S.-Ukraine relations, the fulfillment of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to sow discord within the United States, and the opportunity costs to the American people,” Republican staff wrote.

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